Coast Guard repatriates 41 migrants to the Dominican Republic

Coast Guard Cutter Tezanos (WPC-1118) crewmembers transfer four of eight migrants to the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115) Dec. 19, 2018, who were interdicted by Caribbean Border Interagency Group authorities aboard a 30-foot makeshift boat just off Aguadilla, Puerto Rico Dec. 18, 2018. The cutter Joseph Napier repatriated the migrants to La Romana, Dominican Republic Dec. 20, 2018. This interdiction was the result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group.

Coast Guard Cutter Tezanos (WPC-1118) crewmembers transfer four of eight migrants to the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115) Dec. 19, 2018. The cutter Joseph Napier repatriated the migrants to La Romana, Dominican Republic Dec. 20, 2018.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard repatriated 15 migrants Friday and 26 others Thursday to the Dominican Republic, following the interdiction of four migrant vessels this week in Mona Passage waters off the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

The interdictions were a result of ongoing efforts in support of Operation Unified Resolve, Operation Caribbean Guard and the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

“Crossing the perilous waters of the Mona Passage aboard grossly overloaded makeshift boats with no life-saving equipment onboard is extremely dangerous and a potentially life threatening situation,” said Cmdr. Christopher Douglas, Coast Guard Sector San Juan chief of response. “The excellent interagency collaboration between the responding local and federal agencies led to the successful interdiction of all four migrant vessels and the safe recovery of 41 migrants.”

“Ramey Border Patrol Sector has adjusted its presence in key locations around Puerto Rico, in response to the increased activity in our area,” said Xavier Morales, Ramey Sector Chief Patrol Agent in Aguadilla. “It is usual to see an increase in smuggling activities during the holiday season. Smugglers have the perception that law enforcement decreases during this period, however our agents remain vigilant, working 24 hours, seven days a week.”

The crew of a Customs and Border Protection DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft detected the first migrant vessel Monday night transiting without navigational lights, approximately 11 nautical miles north of Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Tezanos (WPC-1118), while a Customs and Border Protection CBP Caribbean Air and Marine and a Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine unit also responded to interdict the suspect vessel. The crew of the CBP marine unit arrived on scene and interdicted the 30-foot makeshift boat with eight migrants onboard, six men and two women, who claimed Dominican nationality. The Joseph Tezanos arrived on scene shortly thereafter, embarked the migrants and later transferred the migrants to the Coast Guard Cutter Joseph Napier (WPC-1115). The cutter Joseph Napier transported the migrants to La Romana, Dominican Republic, where they repatriated and transferred the migrants to Dominican Republic Navy authorities Thursday morning.

The cutter Joseph Napier interdicted a second migrant vessel Thursday afternoon, after the crew of a patrolling CBP DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft detected a 25-foot boat transiting towards Puerto Rico, approximately 15 nautical miles east southeast of Isla Saona, Dominican Republic. The crew of the cutter Joseph Napier embarked 18 migrant adults from the 25-foot makeshift boat, 16 men and 2 women, who claimed Dominican nationality. The cutter Joseph Napier rendezvoused with a Dominican Navy patrol vessel Thursday night in waters south of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where the Dominican Navy crew embarked and received custody of the migrants.

Ramey Sector U.S. Border Patrol agents detected a third and fourth migrant vessel early Thursday morning, approximately eight nautical miles north of Desecheo Island, Puerto Rico. Coast Guard watchstanders in Sector San Juan diverted the Coast Guard Cutter Winslow Griesser (WPC-1116) that responded along with two Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action marine units to interdict the suspect vessels. A patrolling CBP Caribbean Air and Marine DHC-8 maritime patrol aircraft vectored-in the police units that closed-in and stopped both migrant vessels. One of the interdicted vessels was carrying seven men, while the other was carrying eight, who claimed Dominican nationality. The cutter Winslow Griesser arrived on scene shortly thereafter and safely embarked the migrants from both vessels. The cutter Winslow Griesser rendezvoused with a Dominican Navy patrol vessel Friday morning in waters just off Samana, Dominican Republic, where the Dominican Navy crew embarked and received custody of the migrants.

Once aboard a Coast Guard cutter, all migrants receive food, water, shelter and basic medical attention.

The cutters Winslow Griesser, Joseph Napier and Joseph Tezanos are 154-foot fast response cutters homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard’s efforts under Operation Unified Resolve contribute to the interagency results being achieved each and every day locally under Operation Caribbean Guard, which coordinates efforts between the Coast Guard, its DHS, Commonwealth and Territorial law enforcement partners, who are working diligently to deter, detect and disrupt illicit maritime trafficking to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Caribbean Border Interagency Group was formally created to unify efforts of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico, and Puerto Rico Police Joint Forces of Rapid Action (FURA, for its Spanish acronym), in their common goal of securing the borders of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against illegal migrant and drug smuggling.

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